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State College Keg Toss Incident - What Criminal Charges Could Be Filed?

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According to an online newspaper article, someone threw a keg from the balcony of a downtown State College 7th floor apartment. Luckily no people were injured, but at least one vehicle was severely damaged. The keg was tossed around  12:55 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and, although most people are in bed at that time, many Penn State students are still up and circulating about in downtown State College. Since the police are able to pinpoint an almost exact time when the keg was thrown, it is highly likely that witnesses were near the crushed vehicle and either heard or observed the destruction.

Anticipated State College Criminal Mischief Prosecution

Being a nerdy State College criminal defense lawyer, I contemplated what charges could be filed in this incident. The easy one is Criminal Mischief. Criminal Mischief, found in section 3304 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, basically prohibits a person from causing damage to another person's property. The grading or severity of the charge is primarily based upon the value of the loss or destruction. Generally, if the value of the loss is $500.00 or less, the charge is a summary offense. In many situations, a non-traffic summary offense, similar to a traffic citation, is often resolved via the payment of a fine.

If the loss exceeds $500.00 but is not more than $1,000.00, then the charge is graded as a third degree misdemeanor, and if the loss is more than $1,000.00 but not more than $5,000.00, then the criminal mischief charge is graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree. A State College misdemeanor criminal mischief charge may be resolved via participation in a first time offenders program known as ARD, or, if the person were convicted, a sentence of probation would probably be imposed. If the value of the loss exceeds $5,000.00, then the charge is a third degree felony. The Centre County District Attorney often refuses to permit people charged with felony offenses to participate in the ARD program, and a conviction of a felony count of criminal mischief could result in a probationary sentence, but it could also result in a period of incarceration, most likely at the county jail.

Could State College Police File Reckless Endangerment Charges?

If people were located in the parking lot or on the street near where the damaged car was parked, I believe that the keg tosser could be charged with Recklessly Endangering Another Person. Recklessly Endangerment prohibits a person from engaging in conduct that places another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury. If people were located relatively near the damaged vehicle, the district attorney would have a solid argument that throwing an approximately 30 pound keg from seven stories up is conduct that places a person in danger of at least serious bodily injury. This charge is a second degree misdemeanor.

While both Criminal Mischief and Recklessly Endangering Another Person can be misdemeanor offenses, I believe that the district attorney would treat the endangerment charge more severely because it threatened the safety of people whereas the mischief charge only caused some property destruction. I have serious doubts that the keg tosser would be approved for ARD if he were charged with Reckless Endangerment. Instead, the tosser is probably facing at least a probationary sentence and possibly even some jail time in the county facility.

Regardless of the charges that are filed against the keg tosser, he will definitely need the services of an experienced State College criminal defense lawyer like Jason S. Dunkle.

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